Today I watched Brian De Palma’s Raising Cain (1992)
Raising Cain is a frustrating film, it displays plenty of promise and De Palma demonstrates serious talent, but the film fails to come together. The story revolves around Dr. Carter Nix, a child psychologist whose wife, Jenny, becomes concerned that Carter is studying their daughter like a science experiment. John Lithgow plays Nix, his brother and his father in a brilliant piece of multi-casting. Lithgow is the heart and soul of this film and it really only manages to be watchable because of his nuanced performance.
This film tries many different cinematic devices throughout it’s run time, all trying to confuse and obfuscate the rather silly narrative. To some extent this movie feels almost like a promo reel of different ways to build a dark, foreboding atmosphere. The inconsistent devices really make the film feel uneven, there is a series of scenes that are framed as dream sequences despite them not being, then there are a handful of scenes in which Jenny has an inner monologue that never comes up again. While there is plenty of technical flair on display it never comes together into a consistent whole as the film is more a series of experiments than a cohesive story.
If you must watch this film, do it for Lithgow, who is really quite sublime. While he is most well known for his comedic roles, he has always impressed me with his ability to handle drama. If this movie does one thing right it is to put Lithgow on center stage and let him run wild. Though this film also has a lot of great cinematography and editing, it is a shame that those devices don’t go to any greater use than to prove their own efficacy. 2/5